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GOP says Democrats plan to block votes

Published Oct. 10, 2005

House Republicans charged Tuesday that Democrats plan to use a procedural maneuver today to block votes on three reapportionment plans sponsored by black and Hispanic members.

The black and Hispanic plans would create a total of six congressional districts favoring minority candidates. That's more than any other Democratic or Republican plans.

But Republicans say that they have seen outlines of Democratic strategy that call for use of a procedural device known as a "substitute amendment" to block votes on the minority-backed plans when the House takes up congressional reapportionment today.

Democrats didn't deny that such devices might be used.

"Procedurally if someone wants to offer a substitute (on the minority plans), they have the ability to do that," said state Rep. Peter Deutsch, a reapportionment subcommittee chairman. But Deutsch said he doesn't think the Houseleadership has a strategy to prevent direct votes on the minority plans.

A substitute amendment, if approved by a majority of the members, would prevent a direct vote on the minority-sponsored plan that it replaced. Substitute amendments have to be voted up or down without further amendments.

Then, after each of the substitutes was approved, Democratic leaders could offer their favored plan and pass it, Republicans said. That would have the effect of wiping out all the previously approved plans.

One Republican strategist said he saw the strategy outlined on a blackboard in a House office Tuesday evening. When a reporter went to the suite to look, a staffer erased the writing on the blackboard.

"If they objected to substitute amendments, they certainly should have raised it at the time the policy was adopted, so it's a little late now," said state Rep. Peter Rudy Wallace, D-St. Petersburg, the House reapportionment chairman.